I've run enough races that individual finishes don't stick as permanent life changing memories.
In 2002, two years after I started running, I did a 5k. I don't recall the name of it, or even the time of year though I suspect the fall as there was a Santa Ana blowing and the humidity was at about six percent. It also had a downhill start. That combination of wind at my back and gravity got me out to a fast (for me) 6:25 first mile.
The real speedsters were well out in front and most of my running buddies from the San Diego Track Club were jumping into the half that was going off right after we were done. Instead, I ran with a bunch of unfamiliar folks - and a group of kids, ranging in age from about 8 to 13, part of the San Diego Road Runners club. They came decked out in fancy sweats and serious attitudes. A goodly number of those little boys and girls ended up ahead of me.
After cooking off the line and feeling very good in the first mile, I regained a little sanity and brought my middle mile into a nice, sustaining recovery mile. One by one, I was moving up and picking off runners that were more foolish than I was at the start. I didn't push hard because I was getting ready for the last mile.
It was a loop course which meant powering back up the hill, this time into the wind. Uggh. Still, it was an opportunity to prove to myself I could push through and finish strong, so I buckled down and did what I do well. Grind. And picked up more roadkills on the way up the hill.
The top flattened out for the last 75 yards or so and I went into a kick. Passed on person, then a second and saw the last person between me and the finish.
I think she was about nine, cute as could be, skinny like my little girls and a long, blond ponytail. She was clearly struggling and I was closing fast.
Twenty yards from the arch at the finish, I caught up to her. I saw her shoulders drop a little as she heard me coming.
I love to compete, at nearly everything. I hate losing. I cover it well, much better than when I was younger, but I really, really hate losing whether it's a race, a game of monopoly, or who makes the best over-easy eggs in the family.
That day, though, I slowed down behind her and started telling her, "Come on, go, go, go, you got it." She sprinted and I cheered her all the way into the chute.
That's a memory, a lesson learned on the run, that I treasure. That's the day I discovered that I was more Dad than big ferocious competitor.